The transformative learning theory of Mezirow (2010) provides a central perspective from which previous ‘hard to reach’ young adult learners’ engagement in learning can be viewed.
Other learning perspectives will be considered together as forming a quadratic theoretical framework with transformative learning theory.
These include Bandura’s (1986) self-efficacy theory, reflective thinking theory (Dewey 1933), and the more definitive theory of critical thinking (Glaser 1941); this latter theory arose from Dewey’s reflective thinking theory and has been referred to as the cornerstone of the critical thinking movement by Yildirim and Ozkahraman (2011).
The intention is that from a consideration of the role that these learning approaches have in the learning process, a more extensive understanding and perspective on learner transformation can be developed.
The development of an extended understanding, according to Mezirow (1997), involves an individual changing their frame of reference regarding their assumptions and beliefs, and putting into action plans which enable new perspectives on how they perceive the world and their relationship to it.
These four approaches share a common notion of potential shifts in self-perspective leading to self-improvement as a result of the development of what Richard Paul describes as an ability to think about your thinking, while you are thinking (Paul 1993)
Social and Educational Inclusion
The concept of educational inclusion can be set within a wider social context and includes the notion of a cohesive society. The effect of educational inclusion goes beyond the classroom; it may be viewed as a concern to promote the right to equal opportunity as a fundamental value of a fair and just society.
In addressing the inequalities of access to participation in education suffered by socially excluded learners of all ages, this concern is mindful of exclusion due to differences, such as minority religious and ethnic groups, asylum seekers, travelers, teenage mothers, gender and sexual orientation (OFSTED 2002).
An understanding of the processes leading to inequality of opportunity for individuals and groups is captured by the notion of what Ball (2003) refers to as ‘class strategies’.
These class strategies operate as a means to defend, hold and improve individual class positions in society. According to Preston (2004), class strategies may involve the civic inclusion of favoured groups and the civic exclusion of others who are members of different social groups. These strategies incorporate more than just an economic, income or occupational sense of class, but may consist of a combination of such categories as class, race, and gender. Such combinations may then identify those that ‘belong’ and those that do not, those that are included and those that are not.
The excluded may become ‘hard to reach’ through a diminished sense of belonging to, or involvement in, a wider society. Approaches towards inclusion in learning are primarily concerned with redressing this imbalance and fostering equal opportunity.
Lifelong Learning Policy in the United Kingdom Initially the promotion of lifelong learning formed a significant element of New Labour’s Social Reform Programme. Arising from the Social Exclusion Report (Social Exclusion Unit 1998), it proffered, as a part of the National Strategy for Neighbourhood Renewal, a combination of initiatives to address perceived deficiencies in adult basic skills.
Together with a commitment to lifelong learning.
- Developing strong ties and partnerships between further education, local communities and employers.
- To increase funding to higher education institutions to reach out to more young people.
- To provide clear information and improved marketing of the route to higher education.
- To pilot new forms of financial help to young people.